Featured Solidus of Zeno from the Guy Lacam Collection

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Al Kowsky, Apr 7, 2020.

  1. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Guy Lacam authored a monumental study of two volumes (1107 pages), La fin de L'Empire romain et le monnayage or en Italie: 455-493 (The end of the Roman Empire and the Gold Coinage in Italy: 455-493), copyright 1983, published by Adolph Hess. Many experts and European auction houses are using Lacam's publication as the bible for Roman gold coinage for the period of AD 455-493. I became aware of Guy Lacam and the coin pictured below 33 years ago while browsing thru the NFA XVIII Auction catalog, April 1, 1987.

    NGC 2101304-001 (3).jpg NFA XVIII, Part II, Lot 635, Cat. Images.jpg

    In January of 2003, CNG offered the same coin in their Triton VI auction, lot 1186, with virtually the same description. The very same coin reappeared in September 2017, in CNG Auction 106, lot 862, with a more detailed description and different attribution, see the attached link below.


    The coin is now described as "uncertain mint" and they suggest a well structured official mint whose identification is not yet certain. Are they hinting at the mint of Constantinople ? At this point I decided to bid on the coin and won it at CNG Auction 106. M.A. Metlich, a well respected numismatic researcher, states "no solidi of Zeno can be attributed to Theodoric". We know barbarous solidi were struck in the name of Zeno, so who made them ? We know that Zeno died in AD 491, and Theodoric was at war with Odoacer from 489-493, so it seems unlikely that Theodoric struck any coins of Zeno when he was still alive. On the other hand it's entirely possible that Theodoric struck coins in Zeno's name after Zeno's death, a custom not uncommon with barbarian kings. Did Metlich consider this ? We know that Odoacer struck coins in the name of Zeno as did other barbarian tribes. Some of these other Germanic solidi look nothing like the coins of Odoacer or Theodoric, see two examples below.

    German Copy of Zeno solidus.jpg

    Uncertain Germanic Tribe, late 5th Century AD, AV Solidus: 4.47 gm, 20 mm, ex Triton XXI, lot 914. Al Kowsky Collection.

    Kunker, Lot 1241, Autum 2017.jpg
    Kunker Auction, Autum 2017, lot 1241, AV Solidus: 4.50 gm, 21 mm. Possibly Frankish or Visigothic.

    Jean Elsen & Sons auctioned the solidus pictured below in September 2014.

    image00423, Jean Elsen Auction 122, Lot 423.jpg
    Ostrogoths, Theodoric the Great (493-526) In the name of Zeno, circa 490, Bologna Mint, AV Solidus: 4.47 gm, 21 mm. Ref., Lacam 56, 41-43 var.

    For comparison see the Elsen coin pictured below my coin. It is obvious both coins were struck with the same obverse die, something rarely seen on late Roman gold. The reverse dies were different with the major differences being the officina marks, my coin the 5th officina & the Elsen coin the 2nd officina. The bottom inscription on my coin is CON OR, and CON OB on the Elsen coin.

    Theo. II AV Solidii.jpg

    Theodoric did strike coinage from the Rome mint in the name of Anastasius, see the two examples pictured below. The top coin came from Sincona 1 Auction, lot 252, June 2011, and is presently in my collection. The bottom coin came from CNG Triton XVII Auction, lot 896, Ex Guy Lacam Collection. Both coins were struck from the 1st officina but from different dies, circa 491-518. They could be the work of the same celator.

    Theodoric Solidi Comparison.jpg

    1. La fin de L'empire romain et le monnayage or en Italie: 455-493, Guy Lacam, 1983,
    Adolph Hess, Lucerne, Switzerland.
    2. Byzantium, The Early Centuries, John Julius Norwich, Alfred A. Knopf, 1992, NY
    3. Essay by Filippo Carla, The End of Roman Gold Coinage and the Disintegration of a
    Monetary Area, 2008, Academia.
    4. Numismatic Fine Arts Inc., Beverly Hills, CA
    5. Classical Numismatic Group LLC, Lancaster, PA
    6. Sincona AG, Zurich, Switzerland
    7. Jean Elsen & Sons, Brussels, Belgium
    8. Kunker Auctions, Osnabruck, Germany
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2020
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  3. thejewk

    thejewk Well-Known Member

    What a historic and interesting coin, thanks for the write up. I am very unclear about the events surrounding this time period, but I'm having another go at Gibbon at the moment so should hopefully start to grasp the events a little more clearly soon.
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  4. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    A. Metlich is (or better was - as far as I know he has given up academic numismatics to pursue business activities) a well respected numismatic researcher. However, his book is not without problems. For example, his section on coins of Sirmium is completely wrong. His statement above, that no solidi of Zeno can be attributed to Theoderic, is perhaps not wrong, but it can be misleading. It implies that no solidi in the name of Zeno were minted under Theoderic, which is probably not the case. I think on the basis of style coins like this one below may have been minted under Theoderic, rather than Odovacer.

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  5. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    Your observation regarding the Lacam coin (CONOR) and the Elsen coin (CONOB) is very interesting and it may solve the longstanding riddle regarding the CONOR mintmark. I think the very fine style, the fact that different officina were involved, the shape of the spear Point (leaf instead of barbed) and now the fact that the same obverse die was used to mint a CONOB solidus, suggests that both coins were probably minted in Constantinople.

    I have the coin below in my collection. It has a COMOB mintmark, so it is attributed to Rome.The style is fine, despite the inverted Z. The style is too fine for issues outside Italy I think, but it is strange and unlike that of Rome and Ravenna, let alone Milan issues. I think it is possible that this coin comes from the Bononia mint, but this is only a guess. The high officina number (S - 6) is strange for a small mint. A mysterious coin, but a bargain at USD 1000. I think it would fetch twice or three times this today.

    Last edited: Apr 8, 2020
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  6. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Tejas, Your solidus is a fascinating coin & I agree with you that it doesn't resemble the coins struck at the Rome Mint. It could be a product of a northern Italian mint like Bologna or Ticinum. The officina mark of an inverted Z or S indicates it also is the product of a well established mint. A great deal of research needs to be done on these barbarous treasures.

  7. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    thejewk, Despite being nearly 250 years, old Edward Gibbon's 6 volume study: The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is the best & most used reference source on the subject :D.
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  8. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    Ticinum (Pavia) is of course also an option. Sometimes the coins with CONOR are attributed to Ticinum as well, like this one below


    I think Ticinum fell early to the Ostrogoths under Theoderic. I agree, a lot more research needs to be done to attribute these coins to the different mints and rulers.
  9. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    There is a rather new book called "Theodrich der Grosse: König der Goten, Herrscher der Römer" 2018, by Hans-Ulrich Wiemer. In my view, this voluminous book (nearly 800 pages) is by far the best single book on the period. It is extremely well researched with plenty of detail that cannot be found in other books. It is also very well written and hence easy to read. The only problem is that it is only available in German.
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2020
  10. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Tejas, This is another interesting coin with the CON OR inscription. The 1st thing I noticed reading the description was the weight of 3.77 gm :jawdrop:! Someone did some serious clipping on this coin :smuggrin:. Clipping was not a serious crime with the barbarians since their gold was traded by weight, not denomination :).

    Zeno solidus with CON OR, clipped.jpg
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  11. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Tejas, Thanks for the tip on this book, I'll try & search it out ;). I spent 18 months in Germany when in the Army & my grasp of the language was pretty good then, but that was over 50 years ago & I've sadly neglected it since then :(.
  12. Brian Bucklan

    Brian Bucklan Well-Known Member

    @Al Kowsky : Beautiful piece and excellent write-up.

    Here's my example of a Theodoric AR Quarter Siliqua. Tiny silver coins with the monogram of Theodoric on the reverse issued in the name of both Anastasius (this coin) and Justin I.
    Theodoric Siliqua Monogram.jpg
    Obv: DN ANASTAS ...; Bust right
    Rev: Monogram of Theodoric within wreath, cross above
    10mm, 0.6gms
  13. Hamilcar Barca

    Hamilcar Barca Well-Known Member

    Read this while waiting for the CNG auction to start. I am reminded once again of why I like this board so much. Great information to start the day. Thanks!
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  14. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Brian, Thanks for the kind words :). Your 1/4 Siliqua is a little gem :jawdrop:!. The coin is perfectly centered for such a tiny coin, it has lovely toning & the monogram is crystal clear.
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  15. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Hamilcar Barca, Thanks for the kind words :D. I'm bidding on 4 coins too :smuggrin:.
  16. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    You can have look into the book at the Amazon page below and decide if the language is not too difficult. As I said, the book is well written and very readible.

  17. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Tejas, Thanks for the Amazon tip :). I went to the site & was surprised how reasonable the book was priced. I'm sure I could struggle thru the book with my lost German. Unfortunately they aren't delivering to the U.S. because of high demand :(. I'll keep checking on it.
  18. thejewk

    thejewk Well-Known Member

    It was the first set of books I tried reading about the ancient world, and I knew so little at that time that I lost interest with the parade of catastrophies in the mid 3rd C and started reading some of the more approachable books. Now I know a bit more, I'm enjoying it and appreciating it a lot more as well. Especially the chapters on Constantine.
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  19. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    I have this solidus below in my collection. The coin shows the mintmark COMOB, the monogram RM for Rome and the monogram of Theoderic in Latin letters in place of the officina letter. I think the inclusion of RM indicates that COMOB was not understood to be exclusive to Rome. The inclusion of Theoderic's monogram was probably a statement of his assertion of power. I think in 497 Theoderic and Anastasius came to an understanding, which let to the removal of the RM monogram and Theoderic's monogram. Hence, the coin dates to between 493 to 497.

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  20. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Tejas, You're right on the date range of this very rare solidus. Solidi with the monogram of Theoderic are in great demand & bring high prices at auction. I remember when the coin sold at auction last year. It's weight of 4.19 gm shows it was clipped which is common with barbarous solidi.
    E V. G 529.jpg
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  21. Theoderic

    Theoderic Member

    Thanks for the interesting post. Guy Lacam's name in the title caught my eye as I have a tremissis of Leo I from the Lacam collection that I won at the Elsen 87 auction in 2006.

    Germanic Leo tremissis obverse.png Germanic Leo tremissis reverse.png

    AV Tremissis (14 mm, 1.47 grams, 6h), Struck in the name of Leo I, circa A.D. 457-474, uncertain Italian mint

    Obverse: D N LEO PE-NPET AVC, diademed, draped and cuirassed bust right
    Reverse: VICTORIV AVCVSTORVN, Victory walking right, head left, holding wreath in right hand and globus cruciger in left; star in right field; CONOB in exergue
    Reference: cf. RIC X 611 for type
    Provenance: Elsen 87 (March 11, 2006), Lot 1848 ; ex Dürr & Michel (November 8, 1999), Lot 377, Guy Lacam collection

    They listed it as a Germanic issue from an uncertain Italian mint I'm assuming because of the style. However, every other Leo tremissis I've been able to find with the CONOB mark is described as being from the Constantinople mint. Unfortunately I haven't been able to obtain a copy of either Lacam's work or of the Durr & Michel sale catalog to see if they had additional info, but I've always been rather curious about this piece.
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